The discovery this past week of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, has left me reeling, grieved and ashamed. This unthinkable and horrendous act didn’t happen in some far-off place, but right here within my own country. And my fear is more graves of this kind may be found once they begin to look closer at other residential schools.
What adds to my shame is that these residential schools were led by many churches including the denomination of which I belong and done so in the name of God. As one who loves the church and as one who is a representative of the church, I feel sick. The God I worship is one of love, inclusion and respect; the acts of these residential schools do not, in any form, represent the God I have gotten to know within my Christian faith.
“What can I do now?” I asked myself.
I want to make right that which can’t be made right. I can’t go back and change what has happened, but I can live differently now in light of the knowledge of the past. I can commit to being now what the church should have been then: respecting differences, seeking understanding, supporting each other and listening deeply. I want to live exactly as Jesus teaches in the Golden Rule “To do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31)
It is my hope to be one who holds space for my First Nations, Metis and Inuit neighbors. When we hold space for others, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support and let go of judgement and control. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that Compassionate Listening is when “You listen not to judge or blame. You listen just because you want the other to suffer less.”
As a white woman of privilege I can scarcely begin to understand what it means to be a First Nations, Metis or Inuit person in today’s world, but I do desire to do my part to lessen the suffering and aid in changing the future. I commit myself to compassionate listening, remaining open, ready to learn, to advocate on behalf of and to make changes, especially beginning with my own attitudes and perspectives.
The shame I carry is my own, for all those times I have chosen to look the other way, but these 215 children have called beyond the grave for us to either participate in their story or learn a better way or to continue carrying shame. The choice is ours.
Rev. Heather McCarrel